49ers Blog and Q&A

News, notes and reader questions about the San Francisco 49ers

May 23, 2008
O'Sullivan running first-team offense? Not so fast ...

Mike Nolan made news earlier this month when, on the final day of minicamp, he said that newcomer J.T. O'Sullivan was so impressive during the minicamp that the former UC Davis quarterback would compete alongside Alex Smith and Shaun Hill when OTAs begin next month.

Today, however, Nolan backtracked a bit. Through the team spokesman (Nolan is jetting off to Baltimore to attend a wedding), Nolan said that as was the case during the May minicamp, Smith and Hill would get the lion's share first-team reps when OTAs begin June 2. The change of heart does not mean that Nolan has suddenly soured on O'Sullivan, the team insists. Rather it's an acknowledgement that there simply aren't enough practice repetitions to go around, especially when both Smith and Hill are learning a new offense. Because O'Sullivan is already familiar with the offense, he doesn't need as many practice reps. Nolan (again via the team spokesman) did say that the coaches would revisit the quarterback pecking order again when training camp begins July 24.

How to interpret this? Well, one way is to take the team at its word. After all, Mike Martz is giving Smith and Hill a crash course on his new offense. Throwing a third quarterback into the mix would reduce all of their repetitions. In fact, as Nolan was singing O'Sullivan's praises on May 4, he also expressed concern over having too much competition at quarterback. "Competition is a good thing and a bad thing," he said at the time. "If you're diluting it at the quarterback position, is the starter going to be ready enough to go?"

But if I were O'Sullivan I'd be worried that the same logic that applies to OTAs also would apply to training camp. That is, Smith and Hill certainly aren't going to be experts in Martz's offense after 12 OTA sessions. They're still going to be learning the system by the time training camp rolls around. You have to wonder whether O'Sullivan will be considered a third wheel at that point, too.

The 49ers will be holding a camp for high school offensive and defensive linemen from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on June 18. The camp will stress fundamentals, include both classroom and on-field training and demonstrations from coaches and players. The cost is $75 and includes two tickets to a 49ers game, a camp t-shirt, and 49ers gift bag

-- Matt Barrows


Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.


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